It’s hard to say what happens with Aroldis Chapman. Does he opt out and leave way for Zack Britton to become the Yankees closer? Not too long ago on Instagram he posted he wasn’t going anywhere.
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Don’t always believe what you hear in the media. Yankee 100% #chapmanswagg #goyankees
Chapman said the reports at the time were essentially lies. Maybe this is true and he does come back, but let’s not forget we’re the same sports town where the New York Giants proclaimed that they didn’t pay Odell Beckham Jr. to trade him. In the end he got traded, so you can’t blame anybody for having reservations about any statements put out by our teams.
If Chapman does opt out, they’ll have to figure out a way to fill his void in the ladder innings of the bullpen. While another arm will probably need to be added, there is one certainty. Zack Britton can do Chapman’s job and he can do it well.
Don’t forget, from 2014 to 2017, Britton served as closer for the Orioles and he was dominant. This is what he did in that time:
1.45 ERA (2nd)
2.55 FIP (10th)
1.98 SIERA (3rd)
1.00 WHIP (15th)
135 Saves (4th)
.198 Opponent AVG
6.3 fWAR (8th)
If you want to pinpoint the beginning of the end of Baltimore’s run as one of the premiere teams in Major League Baseball, you can make the argument that the final nail in the coffin happened on a December morning: the day they revealed that their closer Zack Britton had ruptured an Achilles.
Britton told MLB.com it happened during a workout:
“It was after throwing, I was just doing my regular running,” Britton said. “Felt like something punched me in the leg. I went down. It was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”
After a six month recovery, he returned to the mound. Though he wasn’t perfect, in 2018 we got a glimpse of what he could do after being traded to the Yankees. There were ups and downs but looking back, it was to be expected. This guy missed a chunk of the year, a spring training and was thrown into the fire. A home run by Christian Vazquez off him in the ALDS wasn’t a true indicator of what he was going to bring to the Yankees the following season, even though that was essentially the beginning of the end to a very frustrating 2018 filled with lost opportunities.
This year Britton showed why he was that elite guy over in Baltimore. This time he did it in pinstripes. After specifically stating he’d only be a set-up guy in the Bronx, Britton ran with this role. Though some of the peripherals were not great, the results were there. Here is how he did and where he ranked among relievers in 2019:
61.1 IP29 Holds (4th)
1.91 ERA (10th)
.182 Opponent AVG (15th)
.291 OBP.254 SLG (3rd)
27.6 Hard Hit % (10th)
There were times it felt like Britton was putting guys on base and you were on the edge of your seat but for the most part, once he was in, you knew the game was almost over. The Yankees would lock up another win. Really one of the few failures of the year for Britton came in a tough series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The author of his demise that night was none other than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Enjoy this disasterpiece.
On the outset, when a ball is crushed like that, you think Britton just hung one in the zone. That wasn’t the case though. He just got beat by Vladdy Jr’s immense talent. Look at where he hit that ball. It was under the strike zone. Here is a spot where Britton has induced many groundball outs.
Look at the Expected Batting AVG when pitches go down in the zone for Britton. He is nearly unhittable. Vladdy just did the unthinkable:
What happened from that point forward? It was not a foreshadowing of any demise. It did not begin a small lull. Britton put that one bad outing away and demonstrated the kind of dominant streak we last saw in Baltimore. This is what he did the rest of the way after Vladdy got him. Other than his FIP, he showed elite stuff:
.149 Opponent AVG
92.9% Left On Base %
25.3% Hard Hit %
During the summer, Zack Britton bought himself an Edgertronic camera. Here is why this should excite you.
This brilliant piece of equipment was made famous by Trevor Bauer and Driveline Baseball – a company which prides itself in dissecting a pitcher’s mechanics and finding ways to best increase velocity and spin rate. I’ve never played baseball a damn day in my life, but when you hear guys in your organization are looking into a technology such as this, here is what you can expect. The players using it will become better and you can hope that they will be helping those around them.
“I bought all the [Edgertronic] equipment, and wired it up in my house,” Britton told Fangraphs writer David Laurila. “Talking with Adam Ottavino about what he’s been doing the last two off-seasons is what really piqued my interest. It’s a way to keep up with how we’re being evaluated now, and it allows us to make adjustments faster.”
He then went on to say:
“The Yankees have high-speed cameras at the Stadium. I’ve noticed differences with both my breaking ball and my sinker. I can see where my hand position is when I throw a good pitch. Rather than just feeling my way through an adjustment, I can get instant feedback on the adjustments I need to make.”
Don’t be shocked if we see even more improvements from Britton next year. Also don’t be surprised if this helps the guys around him. The Yankees, for as much as it feels that they have lacked in developing pitchers not named Luis Severino – a fair critique by all of us in all honesty – do have some young talent coming up. We have the guys we know in Jonathan Loaisiga and Deivi Garcia as well as guys that came out of nowhere with a lot of promise, like Michael King and Clarke Schmidt.
These are all young arms who will be coming into their primes in the future with this technology at hand. Guys like Britton and Adam Ottavino can be their guide through it all.